Notre Dame's defense overmatched in title game


Notre Dame's defense overmatched in title game

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Manti Te'o stood perfectly still as he took a long look at one of the giant video screens in Sun Life Stadium, studying the replay of an Alabama touchdown.

It was a pose that Notre Dame repeated way, way too often in the BCS title game.

Te'o - the senior linebacker who was widely considered the nation's top defensive player this season - was a non-factor early in Monday's national championship, and that foreshadowed how the rest of the night went for the Fighting Irish. Overmatched from the opening possession, Notre Dame allowed season highs in points and yardage, simply unable to stop the Crimson Tide.

Final score: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.

And yes, it was that one-sided of a game, one that even had Irish coach Brian Kelly cracking a joke at his own expense in a televised halftime interview.

``All Alabama,'' Kelly said at the time. ``I mean, we can't tackle them right now. And who knows why? They're big and physical - I guess I do know why.''

Anyone who was watching knew why.

``Obviously we wish the night could have ended in a different way,'' Te'o said, ``but the season, the year, my career here, I've been truly blessed to be at Notre Dame and I'll forever be proud to say that I'm a Notre Dame Fighting Irish, regardless of what happened tonight.''

The lowlights were stacked high by the time this game was over. Te'o missed a couple of tackles early, something he hardly ever did this season. By halftime, when it was 28-0, the Irish had already given up more points than they had in any game this season, the previous high being 26 in a triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh. The most yards Notre Dame gave up this season was 379; Alabama cracked the 500 mark early in the fourth quarter.

Alabama finished with 529 yards, converted 8 of 13 third downs, got five touchdowns in five trips to the red zone and became the first team since Stanford in 2009 to score at least 42 points against the Irish.

``We just needed to execute better,'' safety Zeke Motta said. ``It was just a matter of execution and playing the right way.''

Maybe the play that will be most replayed of all was the one where Eddie Lacy essentially tackled Danny Spond.

The significance?

Well, Lacy was the Alabama ballcarrier at the time, holding the football with one arm and sending Spond - one of Notre Dame's top linebackers - sprawling with the other as he rumbled past for an extra yard or two.

``Pretty darn good football team, but not good enough,'' Kelly said, assessing his team as Alabama's crimson-and-white-confetti-filled victory celebration was wrapping up on the field. ``So it's clear what we need to do in the offseason.''

Bigger, stronger, faster. By night's end, it couldn't be argued that the Crimson Tide held all those titles.

It's why Alabama will fly home Tuesday with its third national title trophy from the last four seasons, no longer a budding dynasty - but an established one.

``It's a tough way to go out,'' tight end Tyler Eifert said. ``We laid it all on the line, but at the end of the day, `Bama was the better team.''

Notre Dame arrived at the title game on the cusp of what would have been a fantasy scenario, that of being unranked at the start of the season and the undisputed champions at the end of the campaign.

After one play, it looked as if it might happen when Lacy was stopped after a 1-yard gain, wrapped up just over the line of scrimmage.

One play later, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron connected with Kevin Norwood for 29 yards, placing a pass between two Notre Dame defenders.

Such was the theme the rest of the night. Even when Notre Dame had its moments, they didn't last long. Lacy ran in from 20 yards to cap that first Alabama drive, the Tide stretched the lead to 21-0 after one play of the second quarter, and the outcome was never in doubt.

Some of the lower-bowl seats at Sun Life were being resold for as much as $10,000 in the days before the game. The majority of those seats were empty long before the finish, those fans for whatever reason deciding they didn't need to see yet another Alabama coronation.

Notre Dame didn't have the luxury those early departees did. The Irish had to watch until the bitter end, and Te'o - even though his college days are done - wants his team to remember what happened.

``The best thing about this experience is it creates fire, it creates fuel, for both the guys staying here and the guys leaving,'' Te'o said. ``Everybody here tonight will be better because of it.''

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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